A few weeks ago, I went to the Netherlands for the first time in my life. I started this trip by visiting Amsterdam with some friends for the weekend, but I’m going to talk more about the less visited places here. A lot of information is already online about Amsterdam, and I must admit, I got a bit lazy thinking about working during this crazy weekend 🙂 So instead of telling you about the capital, I’m going to tell you about Utrecht, the Hague, and Rotterdam.
What is there to see in the Netherlands apart from Amsterdam?
Some key facts and figures you should know about the Netherlands Capital city: Amsterdam Number of inhabitants: 17 182 462 inhabitants in 2018 Country's surface: 42 508 km2
What itinerary for a week in the Netherlands?
Remember, I’m not going to talk a lot about Amsterdam – where of course, you should spend 3 to 4 days if you haven’t done it yet. As for the rest, we decided to explore:
- Utrecht, 4th biggest city in the country
- The Hague, 3rd biggest city in the country
- Rotterdam, 2nd biggest city in the country from where you can easily access Kinderdijk
What to do in Utrecht?
Do not miss out Utrecht! It is very well served by public transports mainly because of its rail network. Utrecht is easily accessible, affordable, and you can do heaps of activities. It’s a city steeped in history which was very important to the Christians living there during the Middle Ages, where the Saint-Martin cathedral was the only one in the Netherlands up until 1559. It got partially destroyed and then rebuilt after the 1674 hurricane.
With its gothic architecture, the edifice and tower are things you don’t want to miss during your visit. By the way, the cathedral’s tower is the highest and oldest in the whole country, and it’s even possible to get to the top… if the idea of climbing 465 steps doesn’t afraid you too much!
It’s even possible to learn more about the city history with the DOMunder tour. You and your torch will discover the archeological vestiges of the city while being told about all the details from the past of the city and its cathedral. All of this thanks to an audio guided visit through headset. Fun and immersive!
An other must do in Utrecht is its canals. Built along the Oudegracht, they played an important role in the commercial development of the country and are still, nowadays, used by many establishments while offering a charming view to the tourists walking by. You can also visit the city on a barge and it happens to be a great way to learn about the history of Utrecht while navigating through its canals.
The city’s population is very young, with about 20% being students. You can easily mix culture and festive nights!
Where to eat in Utrecht?
The Statenjacht coffee/pub
We loved our experience eating our meal on the Statenjacht – a little boat in dock where you can find a very intimate restaurant with limited space but very friendly and cozy.
The inside is beautiful, the setting very pleasant and the menu offers some typical dishes of the country.
Besides all of this, the meals are often shared, and you can end up having lunch or dinner with some complete strangers. Focus is on interacting which is the perfect occasion to make new friends and at the same time, eat well!
The Green House
Friendly place whether you’d like to have a drink with some friends or have a meal. The concept is very simple: based on the circular economic principle, the emphasis is on ecology. The restaurant is also an urban ecological farm: an entire floor is dedicated to agriculture.
The dishes are elaborated with regional ingredients, and the menu always indicates where the food comes from, its nutritional value and its ecological impact.
Where to sleep in Utrecht?
We spent 2 nights at the Inntel Utrecht hotel center. It’s perfect for people traveling for business and who like being comfortable. An additional plus – it’s right next to the train station!
What to do in the Hague?
The Hague is an important city on several levels. It’s an administrative center, but also the seat of the government. It is the pinnacle of Global justice as it welcomes the International Court of Justice. It is the reason its name might sound familiar to you.
Its main asset is its seafront. The Sheveningen pier is a kind of minimalist theme park. There you’ll find bars, restaurants, arcade games, billiard rooms… but above all, the highest ferris wheel in Europe, the Skypier view.
The city is filled with places that are worth visiting! It’s actually well known for its local street art, important and encouraged by the city since a lot of places are made available for it. Anybody can try it for the first time even those who wish to improve their skills. Street art is a claimed activity, promoted by the city to the point that you can see it everywhere: public places, hotels, public and private infrastructures…
To get around, we rented some bicycles for 2 days, and we highly recommend you to do the same: not only is it more ecological but the whole country is adapted to cyclists, and cycling lanes are very secured and well maintained. Discovering the Hague and the whole country cycling was really nice!
The Voorlinden museum is a modern art museum. I have to admit it, I don’t find myself being very interested by this kind of art, but this museum, founded by the current owner Joop Van Caldenborgh, has some pretty surprising artworks from international artists that are really worth taking a look at!
Van Kleef museum
This museum is located in the historical center of the city and highlights the Van Kleef distillery. Founded in 1842, this Jenever and craft liquors distillery is the only one still active nowadays.
You can also be part of the guided tours and the tasting sessions, and learn a lot about historical facts about this distillery and liquors. And besides that, it has an enjoyable and friendly atmosphere.
Hart Beach Quicksilver restaurant
Located along the beach, this restaurant is part of the surf school, Hart Beach Quicksilver. It’s family run and has a refined atmosphere evoking adventure. They offer a varied choice of food, and their drinks and fruit cocktails are delicious!
Where to sleep in the Hague
We spent the night in the De Pier Suites. As its name indicates, it’s located right on the Pier. Probably the most unusual hotel in the country since it’s located on the water.
Apart from the view, the rooms are comfortable and pretty spacious.
What to do in Rotterdam?
Rotterdam is a very diverse city. It’s an industrial and harbor town vital to the economy of the country. It’s the second biggest city due to its high population. Today, the city relies a lot on tourism and has been experiencing an urban transformation over the past decade.
The Markthal is a big covered market and also a symbol of the town. Its architecture is atypical, and there are people living in this building since its sidewalls are residencies. The inside is pretty impressive whether it’s for the great variety of products you can find or because of its vast decorated facade: it’s covered by a giant illustration of 11, 000 km2. It primarily represents fruits, vegetables and insects.
Have a look around, even if it’s only to taste some of the local dishes!
The museum park
This park is a good way to enjoy a cultural walk since you can find no less than 6 museums, all being about diverse themes. You can explore different museums in a few short steps like the Rotterdam Natural History Museum, the Institute of Architecture of the Netherlands or even the Kunsthal. Pretty convenient for indecisive people!
Right next to Marktal you’ll find Kubuswoning. A group of cubic houses built in the 70s. Their very particular architecture are worth taking a look at!
Located 15 km from Rotterdam, Kinderdijk is one of the most visited places in the Netherlands. You’ll see several windmills aligned on both sides of a big water field and are the symbol of the Dutch hydraulic engineering. This place is registered on the UNESCO world heritage.
How to go to the Netherlands
The best option is to go by train using Thalys from Paris or Brussels. It’s less polluting, comfortable, convenient to work and the same amount of time as taking a plane if you take into consideration the time spent at the airport. And yes, no need to be 2 hours early at the Roissy or Orly airport and the train will get you straight to the city center. Paris-Rotterdam will take you about 2h45.
To book your tickets (from 35€) : thalys.com
How to get around in the Netherlands?
The rail network is well developed in the country. You can easily get to the main towns, and the buses and trams networks allow you to get around easily.
But I highly recommend you to rent a bicycle to discover the towns. First of all, it’s more ecological, and the city life is adapted to cyclists. Indeed, the country counts no less than 32, 000 km of cycling lanes!
The national money is the Euro
Best time to visit the Netherlands
We were there in February, during the low season. But apparently, the best time to go is Spring while all the tulip fields are blooming.
The official language in the Netherlands is Dutch, but 90% of the population speaks English.
Electronics and Telephony
The electrical outlets are the same as France (Voltage: 220 – 230* | Frequency: 50)
The roaming charges were cancelled in Europe so you won’t have any problem to use your phone.